How do you describe a place that provides a vibrant lifestyle for seniors — one that respects individual dignity and choice, that offers a range of enriching activities, social interaction and educational opportunities, and that allows for independence at every stage of life? According to LeadingAge, which represents more than 6,000 nonprofit aging organizations, the best descriptor is “life plan community.”
After two years of research and analysis, the LeadingAge NameStorm Task Force recently announced the moniker “life plan community” as a modern replacement for the traditional “continuing care retirement community,” or CCRC. Larry Minnix, LeadingAge President and CEO, said the new descriptor represents the importance for seniors of having the correct plan for the next stages of their lives.
Should CCRCs Make the Change to “Life Plan Community?”
The task force conducted research to find out how people feel about the term CCRC and whether a new way of describing senior living communities might change perceptions for the better. Business leaders, CCRC residents and prospective residents, and members of the greater community were among those queried through surveys and focus groups.
According to the research, 84 percent of adults over age 65 preferred a different choice in name rather than the term CCRC — a name that task force members noted did not effectively capture the innovative spirit of the senior living communities it described. The term “continuing care,” specifically, held a negative connotation for consumers.
Although life plan communities do offer excellent care, it’s just one aspect of the many benefits for residents, task force members noted. When seniors move to life plan communities, they understand that they may need care in the future, but they also want to enjoy their lives in the present.
The Importance of a Plan
Seniors who move to senior living communities tend to be planners, so using the word “plan” as part of life plan communities’ name made sense to the task force. The new name better describes the process of preparing for future phases of life rather than focusing on becoming a certain age.
Over the past few years, communities have worked to update their campuses and programming to welcome in the younger baby boomer generation. Using the description “life plan communities” better fits with the modern, comprehensive focus.
Will the Industry Embrace "Life Plan Communities?"
At this time it may be too soon to tell whether or not the industry will embrace the new "life plan community" name. For CCRC operators, adoption of the term will require a serious commitment from their entire staff, as well as time and cost expenditures for marketing and rebranding. For this reason, many CCRCs are cautiously dipping their toes in rather than diving in head first. LeadingAge is promoting several "next steps" for moving to the new, more-accurate “life plan communities” name. The task force has kicked off three initiatives to promote adoption of the new description:
- Encourage CCRC operators to begin using the new name.
- Offer resources to assist CCRC operators who want to encourage discussion of the new name.
- Seek ways to shift current use of the CCRC name among government and ratings agencies, institutional investors and financial organizations.
For residents of continuing care retirement communities, the new “life plan community" name aims to provide a better, more accurate way to describe the attributes that make life-stage senior living communities so attractive: vibrancy, engagement and choice. Only time will tell if the new term will be fully adopted, however initial industry reactions to the change appear to be positive. Whether it will take one year or ten years for the term "life plan community" to replace "continuing care retirement communities" is the next question the industry is eager to have answered.